Chileans turn to bikes as protests hobble transport

While Santiago’s transportation system may be crippled after weeks of rioting, Chileans are moving forward – jumping on their bikes to where they need to be.

Estimates suggest the number of cyclists has doubled immediately in the wake of the crisis…

. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) CYCLIST, NICOLE CABREA, SAYING:

“It has been very handy to be a cyclist. I think it’s the best option to move about in recent times”

Protests erupted on October 18 over a hike in metro fares and quickly spiraled into mass protests, arson and looting. Black-hooded protesters lit fires at several metro stations, threw debris on the tracks and blockading entrances.

That led the bus system to overflow, which too was hampered when protesters flew rocks in the streets….

Several week later, and the metro system is still not back to normal…

Bikes now outnumber cars at many intersections during rush hour,.. and some complain, like cyclist Ana Guzman , that the bike lanes are overflowing.

(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) CYCLIST, ANA GUZMAN, SAYING:

“Now given the situation, the bike lanes have been filled with people. Before I could move freely, but now there is more congestion, there are a lot of bikes”.

Bike shop owners say they’ve seen a spike in sales in the wake of the protests…

(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) LOCAL BIKE SHOP OWNER, JORGE ARANCIBIA, SAYING:

“I don’t have an exact number but I can confirm bike sales have increased a lot, 30%, 40% or 50%. The metro didn’t work and the public transport system closes early. People needed to move and everybody started to use their old bikes or buy bikes”.

A hobbled metro system means bike lanes may be best possible choice for now … until other avenues of transportation return to working order.